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JACK THE RIPPER
A CAST OF THOUSANDS
BY CHRISTOPHER SCOTT
(c) 2004

Chapter 3

What's in a Name?

It may seem that during the course of the present work I have used the terms "the Whitechapel murderer" and "Jack the Ripper" synonymously. Indeed, perhaps I should have been careful as to how each term was used and where. Because to me they are by no means one and the same. I will explain briefly what I mean by each.
The Whitechapel murderer was just that - the actual unknown flesh and blood man who killed at least four and possibly six women in the period from 1888-1889. I should indicate how these figures are arrived at. From the study that I have done I am sure as one can be at this remove that the same hand killed four of the victims - Nichols, Chapman, Eddowes and Kelly.
A plausible case can, in my opinion, be made for Elizabeth Stride having died by a different hand. The finger of suspicion has been pointed at Michael Kidney, the man with she lived, and his behaviour with the police was, to put it mildly, odd. But that does not constitute proof of guilt and a plausible story is not of necessity a true one. The figure of six possible victims includes Martha Tabram, whom some regard as a first tentative killing by the murderer before his technique matured, and Alice McKenzie, killed in July 1889.
Again I can see a plausible case to be made in the case of McKenzie, but I have serious reservations about the inclusions of Tabram as a victim of the Whitechapel murderer. Personally, I would discount "Fairy Fay" on the grounds that she did not exist, Emma Smith, on the grounds that she was assaulted and killed by a gang of men in a manner that has no similarities with the methods of the Whitechapel murderer and, finally, Frances Coles on the grounds both of the time interval and the fact that Sadler's innocence of the crime is certainly not established beyond doubt.
Jack the Ripper is not the same entity as the Whitechapel murderer. Jack is the cumulative product of myth making, error and fantasy that has concreted to his image over the years. He is a product more akin to the gloating fiend portrayed in the inordinate number of letters, which, in many styles of writing, bore his bloody name. Most people have heard of Jack the Ripper but far fewer have even a basic grasp of the facts of the murders themselves.
This is no way a kind of intellectual snobbery but rather an observation that the myth and the demonic figure is more alluring and more potent than the mundane and often sordid facts of the murders and the world in which they occurred. But this, of course, raises the problematic and intensively discussed question of whether the actual murderer wrote any of the letters that bore the name of Jack the Ripper.
The name was first used in the so-called "Dear Boss" letter, which was sent to the Central News Agency. Certain senior policeman offered the opinion in later years that this epistle was the product of an enterprising journalist. This may be the case and several names have been suggested as to who the author may have been. There is certainly nothing in the content of the letter, which proves that it came from the killer. Many of the silly, disturbing communications that the police and the press received are patently nothing to do with the Whitechapel murderer and were sent from spite, a sick sense of humour or whatever perverse pleasure people get from anonymous notoriety. The "Dear Boss" is of more interest than most for it both set the tone of many of its imitators, even down the use of certain stock phrases, and also was the first use of the name that was to become part of the national language and psyche. Two letters, in my opinion, are worth a further look and, maybe significantly, neither bears the name of Jack the Ripper.
The first is the letter dated 24th September 1888, addressed to Sir Charles Warren, which reads, in part:
"Dear Sir, I do wish to give myself up. I am in misery with nightmares. I am the man who committed all these murders in the last six months... I have found the woman I wanted, that is Chapman and I done what I call slautered (sic) her but if any one comes I will surrender..."
The writer claims to give both his own name and the name and address of the place where he worked but all had been heavily blacked out. The letter is odd in that it seems to split logically and in mood into two parts. The first page, which the writer claims to have signed (again this is blacked out), has a remorseful, factual tone in which the writer both offers an explanation for the murders (he was seeking out Chapman) and the fact that he is willing to give himself.
The fact that this single page was signed off suggests this was the original content. Overleaf there is a more threatening, bantering tone in which the writer warns the police where he will be operating and details, even a drawing, of his knife. This tone is more similar to the later, hectoring letters, which received in the name of Jack the Ripper.
The second letter, which interests me, is the so-called "Lusk Letter" which was received by George Lusk with a portion of a kidney. This ghastly, ferociously written epistle, headed with the now infamous phrase "From Hell", is a truly bizarre document. The fact that it was accompanied by the part of a kidney, which may have been human, means we must take this communication moderately seriously.
One point that may be worth consideration in this letter, as in many of the others, is why it was sent to the nominated recipient. George Lusk was then chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee and, by the very nature of the activities of this group; they would have been a highly visible collection of people on the streets of Whitechapel.
We cannot know how active a part Lusk himself played in the patrols or whether his activities were more "behind the scenes." But the press accounts would have ensured that Lusk's name would have been well publicised. Another thing we must remember was that press accounts of the day, unlike modern coverage, not only gave the names of witnesses and other figures involved but regularly also gave their full address. We have to ask why the writer sent the kidney and the letter to Lusk and not to the police or the press.
Of course the author of this chilling note must have been reasonably sure that the details would end up in the hands of the police and press but he may have chosen Lusk as some kind of warning those on the street working for the Vigilance Committee. We should also remember that in another letter to Lusk the writer says he is right under Lusk's nose. Is this meant to imply that he was actually a member of the Vigilance Committee, out night after night looking for himself? What better excuse for being out on the streets at night if questioned?
For the record, I think it most unlikely that any of the known letters were sent by the Whitechapel murderer. It would be most interesting to know what the real killer thought of this barrage of letters paraded in the press. Was he grateful that it served as a most effective blind and diverted attention, tying the police up in the time wasting pursuit of these false leads? Or did he resent these correspondents stealing his thunder and cashing in on his deeds? Without knowing the thought processes of the killer and what agenda he had, if any, these questions are unanswerable. And, sadly, likely to remain so.
Well, it is my hope that the present work has cast a few feeble lights into some very dark corners. We are not one jot nearer "solving" the case, but that was never the intention. If it has told us a little more about some of the minor players in this complex and dark drama, if it has filled out a little these characters who emerged briefly from Jack's dark shadow, then it has done its job.
Of course, there are still many people I would like to find out more about and hopefully this will come about. Joseph Barnett, George Hutchinson, John McCarthy and many more - oh dear, I feel another book coming on!

Bibliography:
The following are the books that have contributed to the present work. My sincere thanks to the work of all these authors and the help, support and guidance of those with whom I have been in contact.
The Jack the Ripper A-Z
1991
Paul Begg, Martin Fido and Keith Skinner
Jack the Ripper - Letters from Hell
2001
Stewart Evans and Keith Skinner
Jack the Ripper - the Uncensored Facts
1988
Paul Begg
Jack the Ripper - The Final Solution
1986
Stephen Knight
Jack the Ripper - Summing Up and Verdict
1991
Colin Wilson and Robin Odell
The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper
1999
Maxim Jakubowski and Nathan Braund
The Complete History of Jack the Ripper
1995
Philip Sugden
The Crimes and Times of Jack the Ripper
1973
Tom Cullen
The Crimes, Detection and Death of Jack the Ripper
1987
Martin Fido
The Complete Jack the Ripper
1988
Donald Rumbelow

Jack the Ripper - The Simple Truth
1995
Bruce Paley
Jack the Ripper
1988
Mark Daniel
Jack the Ripper - First American Serial Killer
1996
Stewart Evans and Paul Gainey
The Ripper Legacy - The Life and Death of Jack the Ripper
1988
Martin Howells and Keith Skinner
Jack the Ripper - 100 Years of Mystery
1988
Peter Underwood
The Complete Jack the Ripper
1979
Donald Rumbelow
The Ripper File
1975
Elwyn Jones and John Lloyd
The Identity of Jack the Ripper
1959
Donald McCormick
Jack the Ripper - The Mystery Solved
1993
Paul Harrison
Jack the Ripper - Pocket Essentials True Crime Series
2001
Mark Whitehead and Miriam Rivett
Jack the Ripper Revealed
1993
John Wilding
Jack the Ripper
1973
Daniel Farson
The True Face of Jack the Ripper
1994
Melvin Harris
Jack the Ripper - The Final Chapter
1997
Paul Feldman
The Lodger - The Arrest and Escape of Jack the Ripper
1995
Stewart Evans and Paul Gainey
The Ripper File
1989
Melvin Harris
Murder and Madness - The Secret Life of Jack the Ripper
1992
David Abrahamsen
The Secret of Prisoner 1167 - Was This Man Jack the Ripper?
1997
James Tully
The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Sourcebook
2000
Stewart Evans and Keith Skinner
The Ripper and the Royals
1991
Melvyn Fairclough
Jack the Myth
1993
A P Wolf
Will the Real Jack the Ripper?
1979
Arthur Douglas
The Diary of Jack the Ripper
1993
Shirley Harrison
Jack the Ripper - A Psychic Investigation
1998
Pamela Ball
The Many Faces of Jack the Ripper
1997
M J Trow